The Devil's Burden

The Village of the Damned Part 2

The brave Wanderers set forth into the dense forest around the village with the local girl, Marie, as their guide. She led them on a trail towards the ancient stone circle. It was hard going, with muddy ground under foot, tangled branches tearing at their clothes and only the occasional glimpse of moonlight to show them the way. They went with swords and pistols drawn, ready to anticipate trouble in an instant. Marie took them so far but then would go no further. She was too afraid. She pointed them in the right direction for the last few miles and then fled back to the safety of the village. The Wanderers pushed on, with the Stone Circle close now, being as careful to keep quiet and hidden as they could. And then they saw it – atop a small hill that rose from the forest was the stone circle. Misshapen figures could be seen moving around on the hill. And there, not far in front of them was another of the goatmen, as yet unaware of their presence. A plan was hatched. Jacob and Laguna crept forward to take the monster by stealth. Jacob let loose his nzappa zap but the throwing axe bounced harmlessly off the creature’s thick hide. Laguna charged, sword drawn but he could not fell the beast either. And so it was that Jean let fire with both barrels of his pistol, blasting the monster to pieces but giving away their position in the process.
The figures on the hill quickly disappeared and fearing an ambush the Wanderers crept forward through the forest again, making it to the hill. They clambered up the slope and took up defensive positions among the stones, waiting for the inevitable attack. They had but a moment to take in their surroundings but they did all notice the flat sacrificial stone in the centre of the clearing stained a dark rusty red . . .
Jean crept back down the hillside for a better position but it was at that moment that the attack came. A wall of fire sprang up between Jean and the other two. He was separated. Three of the terrible goatmen charged from the forest and the Wanderers were forced into action. The leader of the goatmen confronted Jean. He was not misshapen like the others but taller and more powerfully built and he wielded an evil looking scimitar inscribe with runes. His eyes blazed with a terrible red infernal glow and Jean felt an overwhelming fear arise inside him. He fought back the urge to flee, raised his pistol and fired. His shot did nothing to stop the charge of the oncoming beast.
Meanwhile both Jacob and Laguna battled the other beastmen. Jacob was gored badly by the beast and fell to the ground clutching his side, bleeding badly. The beast then charged to attack Jean. Laguna fared better, and inspired by his righteous rage slew the other goatman with a scream of retribution.
That left Jean fighting a desperate defensive action against the other two and he was quickly wounded as a claw ripped open his thigh. Laguna charged in and the two of them began to turn the tide of the battle. Jean, too, was possessed with the spirit of rage and screamed in fury as he pressed his assault, rapier flashing like lightning. Laguna smote down the leader with a mighty blow, nearly splitting the creature in half and then Jean felled the remaining monster with a thrust of his rapier through the creature’s heart. It collapsed to the ground and the Wanderers could rest and bind their wounds and contemplate how near to death they had come. But they had prevailed! They had rid the village of its enslavers and now the place was acursed no more. They explored the hill and found a small network of caves beneath that the goatmen used as their lair.¬†Inside was the remains of rotting bodies and a strange clay-lined pit in the central chamber. The Wanderers could only wander about what nefarious use it could have been put to.
The Wanderers returned to the village, wounded and bleeding but victorious. The villagers were amazed and thankful that their nightmare was over. The Wanderers were able to rest up that night and in the course of their talk discovered more about the ‘men’ who had come to the village and cursed it so. The Sorcerer who disguised himself as a priest was a big bearded Russian fellow who terrified the villagers with but a single glance. It was he who had created the goatmen and enslaved the villagers. His companion was a smaller, bald man that Laguna recognized as Helyetic, the treacherous monk. One of the youngsters had overheard their conversation about travelling to a place called ‘the City of Eagles’ in Africa. The Wanderers must decide again – to set sail for Africa straight away or travel to Paris to consult a contact of Jean’s that may have more vital information that could help in their upcoming adventures . . .

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The Village of the Damned Part 1

Having found passage on a ship bound for France, he Wanderers finally left Plymouth and arrived in Calais intent on Normandy and the village of Colombiere. It took then some days of traversing the bleak French countryside in bad weather, but they finally found themselves on the small road to the village, surrounded by barren fields and gloomy forest. The road was deserted of all other life as if the area was being avoided by other travellers. It was here, atop a small rise before the village that they spied one other traveller on the road – a well dressed, though mud-spattered man on horseback. They attempted to take the stranger by surprise but found themselves staring down the barrel of a loaded pistol. A tense conversation ensued and only after it became clear that similar reasons had brought all three men to this desolate place, did the atmosphere relax somewhat, and the three men agreed to explore the village together. The ‘stranger’ turned out to be a man called Jean and he would reveal little about his past to the Wanderers, except that it was troubled and that he was on the run from the law for some reason. Jean was pursuing a dark sorcerer that he had a vendetta against and his trail had led him to this same village. Jean had one more surprise: his 10 year old daugher, Elise, was also with him and accompanied Jean on his travels. A perilous life for a 10 year old!
Together the four of them travelled the last mile of road down into this mysterious village that had somehow brought them together.
The village at first glanced appeared deserted. Doors were locked and windows latched. The inn appeared abandoned with the only sign of life being the creaking of the sign in the cold wind. But there was life in the village: light flicked from behind doors and there ¬†was a whispered conversation from somewhere. The Wanderers banged on the inn’s door until they were let in by a surly inn keeper who was reluctance to give them lodgings or a meal. His wife hid in the back, too terrified to appear. They Wanderers could not get any sense out of either of them exept that the village was cursed and they should leave the place immediately.
The Wanderers had decided to stay though and wished to get to the root of the evil in the village. They enjoyed a meal of rotten onion soup and watery wine. For all of them the floor began to shake and the walls spun. They had been drugged! Suddenly the room was full of burly villagers all intent upon subduing the travellers. The Wanderers drew pistols and a tense standoff ensued. The villagers were too fearful to attack armed men. The Wanderers spoke to the village elder but he refused to tell them what was going on. Finally a brave girl spoke up and revealed the terrible truth. Six months ago strange men had come to the village. They thought they were priests, but they did some terrible magic out at the old stone circle and brought forth ‘demons’ who had been terrorizing the villagers every since. The demons demanded a sacrifice on the full moon of each month and the villagers had been forced to choose one of their own to save the others. A full moon was due for the following night and right now another girl was being held captive in a barn, ready for sacrifice. The other villagers tried to silence the girl and stop her revealing their shame but the Wanderers forced them to stand back and let her finish. The Wanderers then swore to rid the town of this great evil and they made the villagers go and release the poor captive girl.
At this moment a bestial roar was heard for the street outside followed by a scream. The Wanderers rushed out to see a fallen woman and standing over her, breath misting the freezing air was an abomination: some kind of hulking misshapen goat man with cloved feet and twisting horns. Both Laguna and Jean drew pistols. The thing roared and charged Jean, but Laguna stepped in just in time to blast the creatures brains to smithereens.
The villagers were shocked and awed at this display of power. Perhaps these strange men could save them all? And so it was that Brother Laguna, Jacob and Jean swore to venture into the night to face these demons in their lair and destroy them and rid the village of their curse forever . . .

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Rats in the Woodwork

23rd January 1610

Though Brother Laguna and Jacob Silversmith would have dearly loved to have helped Sir Robert Lewisham in his quest for his missing daughter, the two decided the pursuit of the shadowy figure behind Brother Helyetic was the more urgent concern for them. Having made this decision they parted with Sir Robert and left for Plymouth to seek passage on a ship bound for France.

In Plymouth they discovered there had recently been a spate if murders in the Docks area and they swore to do what they could to catch the killer. The murders had started not long after a local witch had been hung. Each night after that another body had been found floating in the harbour waters. The two wanderers volunteered their services to the town watch and decided to help with their patrols through the night. In the course of their patrol they came across a mugger fleeing the scene of his crime. They confronted and battled the thug in a back alley and then cut him down when he tried to escape. The injured man was turned over to the watch to be dealt with.

In the final hour of their watch screams were heard and following these the Wanderers discovered a house had been broken into and in the front room of this house were the remains of two bodies horribly torn apart. They then discovered there had been a child in the back room but there was no sign of her body – she had been taken by someone or something.

The Wanderers followed a trail of blood that led to an open grate to the sewers. They lit a torch and then bravely descended into the murk to pursue the villain. In the sewers they survived a swarm of rats and discovered some kind of lair where the ‘monster’ had obviously eaten many of its victims. Bodies and skeletons of dog, cat and man were to be found here. Not too much further in the Wanderers discovered the source of the killings: a monstrous vile rat the size of a small horse. The child was curled up in its lair behind it.
Brother Laguna let fire with his pistol straight at the thing but the shot did nothing to stop its attack. A ferocious battle ensued with both Brother Laguna and Jacob Silversmith having to call on their sense of righteous rage to slay the beast. The two were sorely tested but amazingly escaped without serious injury. The child was rescued and the Wanderers emerged from the sewers as local heroes. And the mystery of the monstrous rat was solved: the witch’s gibbet hung above the grate the rat was found under. As she had died she had cursed the people of Plymouth and cut her wrists – the blood had been lapped up by a rat and it was this that had created the terrible monster that had plagued the town.

Now the Wanderers have found passage on a ship they will set sail in only a few days for France and further adventure . . .

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The Red Hand of Vengeance

1610 January 16th, Devon, England

A week after the attack on the monastery Brother Laguna and Jacob Silvermith tracked down one of the outlaws to the port of Plymouth. The scarfaced outlaw was seen drinking in the Quartermaster, a dockside Tavern of ill repute.
On entering the Tavern they quickly identified the outlaw, who was carousing at table with a slattern. The outlaw was grappled and dragged on to the muddy streets outside.
Jacob led the interrogation and through a combination of verbal and physical threats the outlaw gave away the location of the remaining outlaws and Brother Helyetic – they were camped out in a ruined castle on the coast. He also told them of a possible secret entrance to the castle by way of crack in the surrounding cliff. He pleaded for his life and Laguna agreed to grant him this if his information turned out to be accurate. The outlaw then made to escape but was caught and dispatched by the Wanderers.

Laguna and Jacob travelled to the coast the next day by way of coach and stayed over in the small fishing village of Tamwick. They left the next morning by foot for Tamwick Castle. They discovered the ruined shell of the castle. It was a small building located on a rocky outcrop, with crags falling away on all sides of it. It was no more than a stoney shell and only a make-shift barrier at the front entrance blocked the way in. Lights could be seen flickering in the lower windows and in the small tower at the back.

Jacob scouted ahead – he crept down onto the surrounding beach and discovered the tunnel into the castle. Laguna then decided to explore further himself – he slipped into the sea and swam around the back of the castle where he discovered a small dock and two rowing boats. He cut these loose to prevent escape and then asked Jacob to explore the tunnel while he crept in to the castle through an archway at the dock.
Jacob did this but set off a hidden trap – he was fortunate not to be seriously injured. He met with Laguna in what turned out to be a cellar cum dungeon beneath the castle. At the dock Laguna noticed an ominous black ship anchored far out at sea.

They heard moaning from one of the cells an discovered what a first glance appeared to be a wild beast of some kind. On looking closer this frightening figure turned out to be not an animal but a man chained to the wall – his hair was wild and his eyes were mad. He threatened to kill the Wanderers. They were able to calm him down and ask him his name. He turned out to be Sir Robert Lewisham, a noble and soldier who had come looking for his missing daughter. His search had led him into the hands of Helyetic and the outlaws and they had captured him. Helyetic had tortured and experimented on him with dark magic. He did not think that Helyetic or the outlaws knew where his daughter was.
The Wanderers released Sir Robert and armed him with a sword. They asked him to remain quiet, but instead he launched a rage-filled charge up the stairs into the castle.
A desperate fight then ensued in the great hall with Laguna, Jacob and Sir Robert battling some 5 outlaws. Sir Robert proved to be a formidable ally and cleaved through 3 of the outlaws within moments. Reinforcements arrived from upstairs in the castle.
As the Wanderers were gaining the upper hand a terrible mist enshrouded the whole room. They had the sense that someone was using its cover to make an escape! Sir Robert agreed to clear up the remaining outlaws while Laguna and Jacob persued Helyetic.
Helyetic fled down the stairs and through the cellar to the docks where he had no choice but to leap into the sea. He swam round to the beach. Laguna and Jacob followed him.
The Wanderers chased him along the beach all the time aware of a longboat with up to 6 men inside, coming towards them over the sea.
Helyetic could not escape them – he turned around and began some more dark magic. A dread sense of fear descended on Laguna but he did not falter and continued his chase. Helyetic then tried to shoot him with a pistol but this turned out to be waterlogged and useless. Helyetic then had no option but to draw his sword and fight.
Laguna quickly got the upper hand over Helyetic in the ensuing duel. Helyetic was a thief and a necromancer but no great swordsman. As Jacob arrived on the scene Helyetic was slain. The longboat at sea turned and headed back to the black ship. Sir Robert emerged from the castle, victorious against the remaining outlaws.

The three Wanderers were left on the beach picking over the clues – a scroll of parchment Helyetic carried asked him to go to the stone circle in Colombiere, Normandy, to continue the Great Endeavour. It was signed with an R. On Helyetics body they also found a scroll of magical glyphs they could not decipher, a sacrificial dagger shaped into the likeness of a bull’s head and an ornate wheellock pistol of Arabic design.

Sir Robert thanked the Wanderers for their help and said they would be well rewarded. He asked them to help him in the search for his missing daughter.
The Wanderers must choose whether to help Sir Robert or to pursue the clues on the scroll to Normandy.

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